Lauren McKanzie, Brooklyn mural
Lauren McKanzie in front of her mural at Industry City. photo: Industry City

Election week has been … never ending. And you’ve probably had enough political talk to last a lifetime. So this week’s newsletter is about something we believe to have full bipartisan support: dogs. Specifically, a guide to fostering and adopting, which have surged in the pandemic.

With more people working from home and more free time, it makes sense. Have you been thinking of getting a pet? We spoke to rescue advocate Samantha Cheirif, who, along with her now-husband, has fostered over 100 dogs (three of which they adopted), and got the scoop.

Shelter dogs adopted, fostered in Brooklyn
LooseSeal (L) , a foster and Penny (R). Photo: Samantha Cheirif

What does it mean to foster? Animal shelters, even the private, full-service ones that can provide extra attention and enrichment to their wards, are stressful places for dogs. Shelters can be loud, isolating and unfamiliar. Fostering a dog — or caring for one for a temporary amount of time (usually a minimum of two weeks) in a home environment — allows the pup to socialize and thrive, making it easier for the animal to get adopted. Fostering, Cheirif told us, is a great way to test how you will do with the responsibilities of having a pet, without the actual long-term commitment, especially if you’ve never had a pet on your own before. 

Is fostering “mean” though? This is a common misconception from people who think it’s unfair to bring a dog into a home only to adopt him out to another, according to Cheirif. “Waiting in a home is much, much, much better for that animal than waiting to be adopted in a shelter. [So] setting them up for success in a home then adopting them out is not only not mean, it’s truly the kindest thing you can do.”

Where should you look? As far as rescue organizations go, New York City’s shelter system, Animal Care Centers of NYC has the greatest need for adopters and foster care volunteers. It’s the city’s only open-intake shelter, which means it accepts all animals, regardless of age, breed or behavioral issue. It’s where Cheirif adopted her current dogs, Penny and LooseSeal, and for full disclosure, where I (Danielle) got my dog, Bella, as well. The AAC team does great work.

Cheirif also recommends Friends with Four Paws, which mostly rescues smaller and older dogs from Oklahoma, Hearts & Bones, which rescues animals primarily from more crowded shelters in Texas, and Mr. Bones & Co., which focuses on pit bulls and other breeds that face discrimination or health challenges. There are many other rescue and advocacy groups, and you can join the Foster Dogs “foster roster” to be connected to many of its partner organizations. Check its website for reputable partner organizations. 

Set on a purebred? If you have a particular breed in mind — say, one that’s hypoallergenic — finding a reputable breeder is of utmost importance, stresses Cheirif. Find someone who breeds very few litters per year, keeps the dogs at home as pets and interviews you prior to letting you purchase one. The breeder should test the health of the dogs and generally want to ensure puppies are taken care of for life. 

Don’t even think about purchasing a dog from a pet store: “Pet store puppies come from puppy mills. Even if they tell you they don’t, they do,” Cheirif said. We know, the window displays are adorable and eye-catching, but just don’t do it. 

The application process is … a process. Especially in the pandemic. Don’t get discouraged: While it can be disheartening to apply over and over and not get the dog you have your heart set on, Cheirif likens it to getting a job or finding someone to date. “The first person you match with on an app or job you apply for isn’t necessarily the best fit for you, so just trust the process that your soulmate pup will come along.”

Her advice? Really put your heart into your applications. Also, save your answers in a Google doc so you can apply to multiple rescue groups without having to retype common questions like “what is your training philosophy?” Additionally, be sure to check with your landlord before applying. If your lease explicitly gives you permission to have a dog, consider including it in your application. And be open-minded: Instead of getting hung up on breed and size requirements, also focus on the personality you’re looking for in a dog, Cheirif stressed. “You may be surprised who you end up falling in love with!”

More questions about adopting and/or fostering a rescue? You can connect with Cheirif at @pigpenthepittie (we recommend following for the dog content either way), and read more about her experience fostering on her blog, Hello Pigpen.


How much of a New Yorker are you? The debate of what constitutes a “real” New Yorker is an ongoing one. Our take: If you made it through this year, we say by all means, the title is yours. How much you actually know New York, that’s another story. Think you know it all? The Museum of the City of New York and the Gotham Center for New York City History are hosting a night of virtual trivia, inspired by the 400-year history of the city we love (and sometimes love to hate, of course). The event is next Tuesday, Nov. 10, from 8 to 9 p.m. Tickets are donation-based, advance registration required

Chicken noodle who? It’s officially soup season. We want to tell you about a newish Nigerian restaurant in Astoria, Nneji, a unique and welcome addition to a neighborhood that leans heavily Greek when it comes to cuisine. To warm yourself on a chilly day, try its peppery West African red stew, or, for something different, the egusi soup with melon seed, tomato and spinach. Visit its website for more. A floral escape: Because we are all in need of some type of escape these days, amirite? Now through Nov. 29 at the Queens County Farm Museum, immerse yourself in multisensory flower installations, perfect for the ’gram. For fewer crowds, we recommend visiting during the week. Learn more and reserve tickets

A self-guided art tour: The Sunset Park creative hub, Industry City, launched a free walking tour of its 14 murals, including five recently unveiled works by Brooklyn artists Scott Albrecht, Josh Cochran and Sophia Dawson. The new works, which were curated with the help of The Collision Project, are inspired by themes of 2020: quarantine, and gender and racial equality. Learn more and download the map here

Roll call: The New York City Department of Education has been hiding attendance rates in public schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted last week that only 283,000 enrolled students (out of 1 million) have attended school in person at least once. The DOE didn’t release attendance data for the first month of school, for which De Blasio initially estimated that about 500,000 students would be returning to classrooms. The DOE started publicly providing attendance percentages (not actual numbers). Missing from the list was the head count of students from 421 city schools. 

Remote learning is a mixed bag: While over half of city parents say that remote learning has been successful for their children, parents of color are more likely to say it hasn’t been working. Divisions in opinion are most noticeable along socioeconomic lines. Parents of color were more likely to opt in for remote learning back in September at 62%, compared to 38% of white parents. Remote learners are more likely to be students of color from low-income families, with 72% of those surveyed saying their child is learning exclusively online. 

Only 46% of higher-income parents reported the same for their children. Never going back: Some Black parents are sticking with remote learning to safeguard their children from the risks of two pandemics: Covid-19 and racial hostility. A New York Times opinion piece voiced the feelings of many Black parents who say that virtual schooling allows them to protect their kids from anti-Black bias. Parents concerned with racism in the classroom feel empowered that they can advocate for their children in real time.


Will Draw for Good: What’s your favorite food? Banh mi? Cereal? Chicken pot pie? Chances are, it has been drawn by a local artist as part of this annual fundraiser by Brooklyn design studio OrangeYouGlad, which benefits the organizations Bed-Stuy Strong, Red Hook Relief and South Brooklyn Mutual Aid. To get a print, make a donation for $30, $50 or $75 through the website and then select a print as your “souvenir.” Shelf Help: New York City Public Library has launched a new, book selection service, Shelf Help. Here’s how it works: You tell librarians what your (or your child’s) reading interests and age are, and they will select a bundle of five books for you to pick up. Submit a Shelf Help request here

Epicenter-NYC is a weekly newsletter to help New Yorkers get through the pandemic. We are written by the community, for the community. Sign up for weekly updates at

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